For baseball fans, summer just isn’t summer without a trip to the ballpark.
But even as Major League Baseball prepares to open its season next week, far later than normal, the much-smaller Intercounty Baseball League has announced it’s cancelling the 2020 season.
The IBL began in 1919 and has gone ahead every year ever since. It even continued through the Second World War, “even though many players joined the armed forces,” says the league in its online history.
But now it has become a temporary casualty of COVID-19.
On Thursday, five of the league’s eight teams said they were abandoning any hope of having scheduled play this year. The other three teams had already done so back in March.
“I wish we were still playing, but I understand why they’ve cancelled,” said Cleveland Brownlee, a major hitter for the London Majors.
He said many players in the league, who come from the United States and other countries abroad, weren’t able to come into Canada because of COVID restrictions.
“You know, we want to be playing, but I get to spend more time with my family this summer.”
The cancelled season means the London Majors will not get to play this year in the city’s Labatt Park, newly-crowned as the best ballpark in the IBL by fans.
“There remained a myriad of obstacles to operating in 2020 because of COVID-19,” the league said.
“Many aspects of life in the province are returning to some sense of normalcy, albeit slowly and cautiously. However, a clear path for team sports — that includes fans, is not imminent… (and) a meaningful season (is) no longer viable.”
Many players in the IBL come from other countries, which would complicate quarantines.
Several clubs said may hold events and activities if restrictions are further lifted, and fans who have already bought tickets will be informed about how their tickets will be honoured.
As for Brownlee, he’s excited to get to watch Major League Baseball when a truncated season comes back July 23.